Last week marked a seminal moment for American art. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the organization responsible for Grammy Awards, welcomed Eminem, a controversial artist who has thrived on verbalizing his anger (and some say his hate) through music.
Ever since Eminem's Grammy nominations were announced, not a day passed without some group or clique voicing disgust. Strange bedfellows — groups as diverse as gay rights advocates, women's rights organizations and parents groups — all banded together to denounce the Grammy's endorsement of Eminem's music.
These groups have declared his music nothing more than foul, hateful and subversive language disguised as entertainment.
To add to the controversy, music critics across the U.S. have applauded the academy's embrace of Eminem. Throughout the year, almost every major music critic has called Eminem's “Marshall Mathers LP” a breakthrough artistic work deserving of highest awards.
Eminem won three Grammys last week, and each time, as he rose to accept his award, what prevailed was not the specter of hatred, but the ascension of art over censorship, an endorsement of free expression in lieu of containment of art for the sake of public appeal.
And while I was watching Eminem accept award after award, the gesture took me back to a few months ago when Ebrahim Nabavi, an Iranian satirist, stood in front of a judge in a court room in Tehran and apologized for having written “subversive” and “foul” prose.
Akin to a criminal, Nabavi stood in prison uniforms and tried to use his only asset, his humor, to appeal for lesser punishment. He even promised to abstain from writing. HIS award was his life spared.
This made me wonder what would have happened if Nabavi was born in Detroit and Eminem in Tehran? What if god decided to stop this carousel of absurdity for a moment and make it run the other way around?